Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Sarah E. Bloom, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Catia Cividini-Motta, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Andrew L. Samaha, Ph.D., BCBA-D


behavioral contrast, descriptive analysis, functional assessment, problem behavior


Conducting a functional analysis (FA) is the most empirically supported method of determining problem behavior, yet clinicians report various barriers to conducting FAs. A common concern associated with conducting FAs is that by reinforcing problem behavior during assessment, problem behavior may increase outside of the assessment context (Hanley, 2012). However, little research has validated this concern. In fact, behavioral contrast research suggests the opposite may be more likely. Behavioral contrast can best be described as a change in behavior in one context as a result of the rate of reinforcement of the behavior in another context (Reynolds, 1961). The purpose of the current study was to evaluate problem behavior outside of the FA context. Response-stimulus sequences were observed through descriptive analysis across days as well as immediately preceding and following-FA sessions to examine temporal relations and the extent to which caregivers may influence behavior prior-to and post-FA. Our results suggest that problem behavior rate during an FA, reinforcement schedule, and time spent in the relevant establishing operation do not lead to increases in problem behavior outside of session. However, a change in caregiver behavior was observed for two of the three subjects between pre-FA and post-FA observations.